Opinion Piece, The Times, 31 August 2022

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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4 September 2022

Australia and the United Kingdom live in an increasingly uncertain world where events in one region can have devastating effects across the globe.

We need look no further than Russia’s ongoing, unjustified aggression against Ukraine for proof of this.

Just as striking, is the speed at which this conflict has unfolded, cascading through the global economy, disrupting supply chains, exacerbating climate risks and food insecurity for many around the world, spiking energy costs, and putting our most vulnerable at risk.

The return of war in Europe should be a warning to us all. It has focussed Australian minds, as it has focussed minds in the United Kingdom.

Both our countries see lessons for the Indo-Pacific, a region where Australia and the United Kingdom have a long history, and where the strategic circumstances are as complex as they have been since World War II.

Military build-up in the region is occurring at an astonishing rate, with the largest investment in new capability occurring in China.

The use of aggressive military force to coerce and invade neighbouring nations cannot be tolerated in the modern world.

Only by ensuring such tactics fail in Ukraine can we deter their future employment elsewhere.

Australia stands with the UK to condemn Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. We are providing over $380 million Australian dollars in military assistance to support Ukraine to defend itself.

But military aggression is not the only threat. Coercive statecraft and grey zone capabilities increasingly blur the line between peace and conflict.

The rules-based order that has allowed sovereignty to flourish and economies to thrive is under intense strain.

In response to these challenges, Australia will play a larger role in contributing to a more effective balance of military power in our region.

Australia wants to see a region at peace. Where the sovereignty of all nations – large or small – is preserved. And where the rule of law, not the rule of power, governs conduct between states.

The United Kingdom and Australia are natural partners in the Indo-Pacific. Together with the United States, through AUKUS, we are contributing to the region’s security, and in so doing, to global stability.

The new Australian Government led by Anthony Albanese, is committed to AUKUS and the acquisition of conventionally-armed, nuclear powered submarines. These submarines contribute not just to Australia’s security, but to the region’s as well.

Under AUKUS, we will also accelerate development of advanced defence capabilities such as quantum technology, artificial intelligence, cyber and undersea warfare, electronic warfare and hypersonics.

Our nations share an enduring partnership in defence industry. During this trip, I will visit the UK’s shipyards to inspect work underway on the next generation frigate, the Type-26, on which our own future Australian-built Hunter-class vessels are based. I will also witness the commissioning of the United Kingdom’s newest Astute-class submarine.

Our historic work together in the Indo-Pacific region spans from the Five Power Defence Arrangements – an anchor of regional security for over 50 years – through to last year’s visit by the UK Carrier Strike Group and the deployment of two Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessels.

Even this week, Royal Air Force Typhoon fighter jet crews are honing their skills alongside other nations’ aircraft at a major Australian multinational event: Exercise Pitch Black.

No single country can ensure peace on its own. We can only prevail if we work together. This is why we embrace the United Kingdom’s ‘Tilt’ to the Indo-Pacific and cooperation in addressing our collective security challenges.

AUKUS has breathed new life into the UK-Australia relationship, as we look anew at how we can leverage each other’s strengths to make our nations more secure.

This was originally published in The Times on Wednesday, 31 August 2022.

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